Call for Papers: Forms of Aging

deadline for submissions: 
June 15, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Jacob Jewusiak / Newcastle University

Forms of Aging


The outbreak of COVID-19 brought the global realities of ageism into unprecedented focus. Memes of the pandemic as a “boomer remover” appeared on the internet, framing the disease as a form of population control that would redress the burden of older people on society. In early March 2020, the journalist Jeremy Warner wrote in the Telegraph that, “Not to put too fine a point on it, from an entirely disinterested economic perspective, the COVID-19 might even prove mildly beneficial in the long term by disproportionately culling elderly dependents.” Such ageist views also informed policy: the director general of the World Health Organization observed that the slow response to the crisis was a symptom of a pervasive belief that old people were “less worthy of the best efforts to contain” the virus. As the economic activity of the planet screeched to a halt in March 2020, age rose to the foreground of debates about the value of human life: of who was deserving of care in a time of crisis and who was not.

This special issue of Poetics Today solicits articles that reflect on the relation between form and age/aging. How does form contain and give expression to the experience of age and aging? Conversely, how does age serve as a form with its own set of affordances for organizing human life? Caroline Levine has defined form in its broadest sense as “an arrangement of elements—an ordering, patterning, or shaping”—a useful definition for thinking through the many ways that age functions at the intersection of different social contexts (such as gender, sexuality, race, and social class) and organizational levels (the social, institutional, or literary). While work by age critics such as Margaret Gullette, Margaret Cruikshank, and Thomas Cole have provided valuable insight into the cultural significance of aging, the analysis of form has not received the same attention by scholars. This turn to form is essential for better understanding the structures that enable and disable certain representations of age and aging. Doing so will provide a new set of tools for grappling with the ageism that is engrained in the systems that marginalize older people.

Essays in this special issue will examine the forms that underwrite the representation of age and aging. How do forms make aging more (or less) visible? How does form shape the limits of who counts as old? What structures give rise to a view of older people as essential or dispensable to society? In addition to these questions, essays in this special issue may address (though they are in no way limited to) the following topics:

-       Literary and Aesthetic Forms: How do novels, poems, plays, and film construct and/or limit the representation of age? What role does age play in the creation of aesthetic value?


-       Generic Forms: How do genres such as detective fiction and science fiction deploy tropes relating to age? How do modalities such as realism and fantasy shape the representational possibilities of aging?

-       Institutional Forms: What role do institutions play in the representation of age? How are the spatial and temporal features of the “biological clock” or care homes implicated in narratives of growing older?


-       Social Forms: How do milestones such as retirement or menopause inform the representation of characters? How do systemic issues such as structural racism shape what it means to age?


-       Technological Forms: How do new technologies create or close down possibilities for older people? How does attending to age enrich our understanding of capitalist/industrial modernity?


-       Global Forms: How do patterns of migration affect intergenerational family structures? What is the relation between old age and futurity in narratives of ecological catastrophe?


Please submit a 300-500 word abstract and short bio to the guest-editor, Jacob Jewusiak (, by June 15, 2021. Completed essays of 7000-10,000 words will be due by May 2022 with an anticipated publication date of March 2023.